5 Things You’ll Need Before Taking the Freelance Plunge
Taking the freelance plunge? Not so fast. Going freelance can be the best thing you’ll ever do for your career, but it can also be a big mistake if you’re unprepared. Here’s what you need before taking the big leap.
A Financial Cushion
It’s been said time and time again, yet this is something that truly can’t be stressed enough: You must have a financial cushion before you strike out on your own in the freelance world. It’s inevitable that you’ll experience ebbs and flows in both work and payments (not all clients pay on the same schedule, and not all clients will pay you on time). The standard rule is to have enough cash in savings to cover six months of living expenses.
An Updated Resume and/or Portfolio
So you’re going freelance. Great. Got clients? No? How do you plan to attract prospects? Freelancing means you’re in charge of securing work for yourself, and it’s often an ongoing process. You should always be marketing your services. To do that, you’ll need an updated resume that accurately reflects your expertise, experience, and skills, and if you’re in a field that lends itself to a portfolio, such as writing or design, that’s a must-have, too.
A Professional Brand
We’re not talking Nike-level branding, but you do need to develop a professional brand for yourself to establish your credibility in your field. Unless you’ve been working in your industry for many years and have a massive network of contacts chomping at the bit to secure your services, you’re going to have to reach out and build connections to engage prospects. Most likely, they’re going to Google you, or at minimum, look you up on LinkedIn to find out how legit you are. You want these results to be professional and clearly convey that you’re the real deal. That means getting on LinkedIn, staying professional on Facebook, using Twitter, joining in discussions on Quora, and the like.
Speaking of clients, it’s a good idea to have at least a few on deck before you make the big leap. Some freelancers approach this by doing some freelance work on the side before quitting their 9-to-5 gig, as long as it doesn’t conflict with your contract with your employer (some have no-moonlighting clauses). This not only gives you more confidence to make the leap, but gives you some immediate income and leverage to ask for referrals to secure more business and fill your client roster.
Health insurance is something many people take for granted, but it’s often tied to employment. If you’re young and healthy, it may not seem like a big deal. The ACA has made health insurance plans available to anyone regardless of employment status, but if you don’t have coverage, you could be penalized. Not to mention, anything can happen at any time, from a car accident to the sudden onset of an illness. The last thing you want to be faced with fresh into your freelance career is a rising stack of hospital bills that you can’t afford to pay.
Taking the plunge into the world of freelancing is exhilarating, but if you’re ill-prepared to deal with the reality of the freelance lifestyle, you’re setting yourself up for failure. Getting these elements in place before you make the leap allows you to focus on building your business and doing great work for clients so you can become the sought-after expert in your field you’re destined to be.